Fun, Functional and Fabulous Under $20: Dollar Store Splurges on the Cheap

There have been a lot of studies conducted on why people overspend. There’s boredom, self worth, anxiety, lack of time, entitlement, all sorts of reasons. Frugal folks know we can’t overspend, we have to save all of our money for the stuff we love or toward a major goal, like early retirement. So, how to stave off the urge to splurge in the meantime?

My go-to solution is once again, the dollar store. Below are some very cheap ways to indulge your desire to buy but spending less than $20.

1.     New culinary adventures. I personally love trying out new recipes and foods. They can be pricy however. Special ingredients are often surprisingly expensive so I turn to the dollar store to indulge my inner Iron Chef. You can find all sorts of weird and off beat ingredients at the dollar store to inspire you in the kitchen. Never made crepes? You can buy a jar of Nutella and make crepes from some flour, milk and eggs at home. Hint: the first ones are always dog treat fodder. 

2.     Crafty Crafting. I sometimes like to cruise the aisles of my local crafting store for inspiration. They have just about everything imaginable to indulge my inner crafter in that store but man oh man, is that place pricy. Once I have an idea for a craft or DYI project, I turn to the dollar store for supplies. I never presume that I will find exactly what I know is at the craft store supply wise but I am good at improvising so I know I can approximate the basic supplies I will need for pretty much any project I have in mind. I can buy paint, brushes, glue, glitter, stickers, tape, markers, labels, sketch paper, construction paper, colored pencils, scissors, etc. I can even buy frames, plates, cups, seasonal sculptures, etc. I have  bought plastic pineapples and stars and anchors that I used to decorate for my seaside-themed bathroom and Hawaii inspired coffee table. art-1209519_1920.jpg

3.     Stocking your wrapping station. Even if that wrapping station happens to be your kitchen counter, don’t buy expensive wrapping paper. Just don’t. Americans spend a reported $2.6 billion dollars a year on wrapping paper at an average of $4.99 a roll. Shameful and entirely against your frugal instincts. The dollar store has brown and white rolls of wrapping paper and for a buck each, colorful gift bags and rolls of paper. I like to buy the white and brown rolls and cheap sponges that I cut into fun shapes (using cookie cutters). I then let my grandbabies sponge paint the rolls of paper. Personalized wrapping paper for pennies and a great project for the kids. 

4.     Tool time. Stock a simple tool kit from the electronics and tool aisle at the dollar store. If you are stocking a kit that goes into a weekend or vacation home, car or other location, this is all you need and it’s cheap. tools-864983_1920

5.     Emergency kits. First aid, earthquake (minus the big stuff like a tent and camping oven), dog travel, gym bag essentials, etc., all can be created easily and cheaply from things you can buy at the dollar store. My partner and I run our dogs at a local enclosed baseball diamond at least four mornings every single week. We go early so as not to disturb anyone who wants to hit balls or run the bases and we take an emergency dog kit with us. Since one of my dogs got so excited and yanked on the leash so hard, literally lifting me off my feet and slamming me into the ground like a gold metal volleyball Olympian, we are thinking we should take along a first aid kit along with the dog kit. And to everyone who stood behind the baseball fence and watched me fly into the dirt and grass with their mouths agape, thank you very much ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be here all week.

6.     Organizational wizardry. There are actual entire stores devoted to bins, boxes and all manner of organizational items. If you are determined to get organized once and for all, good for you. Start small and at the dollar store. For your desk there are all sorts of office supply organizers that you can personalize by painting fun colors. For the bathroom, you can find soap, toothbrush and other toiletry holders, also easily decorated and customizable. For everywhere else, dollar stores usually have an entire aisle devoted to boxes, bins and bags of all kinds, often in a variety of bright and fun colors.

7. Party magic. Don’t spend a mint on that next baby shower when you can decorate and impress for pennies on the dollar. My dollar store has an entire aisle of clear plastic items, along with baby shower and wedding shower items from platters to baby décor to goody bags. Using the clear, fluted edged plastic plates, bowls and cups makes everything shimmer and shine along with the silver and gold plastic flatware. There are also scores of balloons to pick from and cheap vases than you can use to decorate in the theme of your choice. We did an Alice in Wonderland themed birthday party for my eldest grandbaby a few years ago and every child got to paint and take home their own tea cup and saucer, courtesy of dollar store finds.  

8. Pet toys. I’ve found some very decent pet toys at the dollar store which is saying a lot  considering that my baby pit bull Annabelle Leigh destroys toys on a seemingly daily basis. I’ve not bought a lot of kid toys at the dollar store but I have bought pool toys, coloring books and crafting projects galore with excellent results.

9. Seasonal décor. Everyone gets the urge to buy holiday themed décor even though those cute elves and sparkly tree decorations can break the bank. Head to the dollar store to satisfy your desire to get in the holiday mood for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Halloween, even the 4th of July. Spend less money and enjoy the holidays more.


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